What Is SUP Yoga? A Complete Beginners Guide
If you know someone in the yoga community or the paddle community (or both), you’ve likely heard the term “SUP yoga”. This isn’t a new yoga class you can sign up for at your local studio, but it is something that everybody can do.
We’ve put together everything you need to know about SUP yoga including what it is, its origins, benefits, risks, and equipment you need to practice. We’ve even included our top SUP yoga poses for you to try!
What is SUP yoga?
SUP yoga (also referred to as floating yoga) is the act of practicing yoga on a stand up paddle board while on calm waters such as lakes, harbours, and bays. It can be done solo, in a group, or as part of a class. Practicing yoga on a board in the middle of a body of water is an added challenge to many yogis who normally practice on solid ground.
Who invented SUP yoga?
Rachel Brathen pioneered the practice of SUP yoga although the exact inventor of SUP yoga is unknown. Since both yoga and stand up paddle boarding date back to ancient times, it’s possible that the two could have been combined thousands of years ago and only recently popularized with the explosion of SUP in recent times.
Is paddle board yoga good for you?
Yes, paddle board yoga is very good for you. It has amazing health benefits (both physical and mental). Paddle board yoga recruits stabilizing muscles within your body and improves proprioception, which is your awareness of your body’s position and movement. Because paddle board yoga is a neuromotor exercise, it requires balance, coordination, and agility—all of which improve with practice. (As they say, practice makes perfect.)
While paddle boarding gets you outside in the fresh air and beautiful scenery, incorporating yoga into this outing can be a very calming experience. Because it’s done on calm waters, you’re able to practice focused breathing and movement meditation which relieves stress and calms the nervous system.
Are there any risks to SUP yoga?
With any activity, there are certain risks. The risks associated with SUP yoga include falling into the water, prolonged sun exposure, changing weather conditions, and practicing yoga beyond your abilities or falling into shallow water—both of which could result in injury. If you fall into deep water without a life jacket and you’re not a strong swimmer, this can put you at risk of drowning. Be sure to always wear a life jacket when you’re paddle boarding and know the basics of how to SUP before heading out onto the water.
What you’ll need for SUP yoga
Good weather: For the best SUP yoga practice, you’ll want to go paddling when the weather is nice and on a calm body of water.
Proper clothing: Be sure to wear clothing that’s appropriate to the weather and that’s easy to move in. Athletic wear or a comfortable bathing suit is usually best.
SPF: Always wear SPF if you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period of time and away from shade. Remember that sunlight is reflected off the water, so during paddle board yoga, you’re getting sun exposure from both above you and below you.
The right kind of paddle board: You’ll want to do SUP yoga on an inflatable board with a large enough surface area. Inflatable paddle boards are more stable than solid boards. Look for an inflatable SUP that’s around 32 inches wide and 10'6 feet long with a soft deck pad. A soft deck pad makes the board a more comfortable platform to do SUP yoga on.
- An anchor: A paddle board anchor helps to keep you in place and stops you from floating away while practicing your SUP yoga.
Do you need an anchor for SUP yoga?
You don’t need an anchor for SUP yoga but it’ll make your practice much easier and more enjoyable if you do use one. Using an anchor for SUP yoga allows you to focus on your practice and really get into a flow state because you don’t have to worry about floating to an undesirable location to keep practicing.
4 SUP yoga poses
Try these top SUP yoga poses next time you’re on the water and looking to get in a solid yoga workout (and some zen photos).
Downward facing dog
Downward facing dog
Downward facing dog is a staple in any yoga class and one of the best poses to do on your SUP board.
Start on all fours.
Straighten your arms and legs as you send your butt into the sky to form an upside-down V shape.
Keep your palms flat on the board and try to get your feet flat on the board behind you.
If you feel stable enough, extend one leg back and up towards the sky for a three-legged downward dog. It’s easier than it looks and makes for a great stretch (and a great photo).
A classic yogi power pose, warrior is a great hip opener and will challenge your balance on your SUP.
Place one foot in front of you and the other behind you in a lunge position.
Drop your back heel so your back foot is parallel to the board.
Sink into the lunge position only as far as you need to to feel a stretch in your hip.
Bring your hands above your head, breathe, and maintain your balance by focusing on the horizon.
Pigeon is another brilliant hip-opener pose that’ll also give your glutes a good stretch. Pigeon won’t challenge your SUP balance as much as other poses but it’s one you shouldn’t skip out on.
Start in a plank position.
Bring one knee forward and rest the outside of your leg on the board underneath your chest. Your front leg will take a 90-degree bend as your back leg remains straight and you bring your weight back down onto the board.
Keep your hands on the board at your side for balance and support.
Sink into this stretch, breathe, and lean on the glute of your forward leg if you need to ease off some of the tension.
If you’re looking for a challenge in pigeon pose, bend your back knee and grab your foot behind you in the air for a good quad stretch.
Feel one with nature in this one-legged yoga pose. This pose will challenge your balance so remember to leave plenty of space around you in case you fall in.
Start standing on your board in the same way that you stand to paddle.
Focus on a spot in the horizon and lift one foot off the board.
Place the floating foot on the inner thigh or inner calf of the balancing leg.
Bring your hands to your heart’s center or overhead (to grow your branches).
Engage your core and don’t forget to breathe.
Start practicing yoga on a Maddle paddle board
Maddle’s inflatable paddle boards are the perfect shape and size for yogis of all skill levels to take their practice onto the water. Our colorful designs let your personality shine through while you enjoy a fun yoga practice on the water.
Shop our beautiful collection of inflatable SUP boards for all your SUP yoga needs.
If you enjoy meditation, SUP yoga can easily lend itself to allowing a few moments of meditation out on the water. Fire up your favourite meditation app (make sure your phone is in a sealed, waterproof case!) and take a moment to reflect on life’s bounties.